Mel, Teresa and baby Florence are a beautiful, loving family.
But due to a petty legal hurdle, Mel can’t be listed as Florence’s ‘Other Mother’ on her birth certificate.
Mel and Teresa have been fighting for Mel to be recognised as Florence’s mum, but they feel like they are banging their heads against bureaucratic brick walls.
In Mel’s own words, this is the story of their ongoing battle to have her parental role and their loving family legally recognised…
I am Florence’s mother.
It was an incredible experience to be the first to hold and feed her, and I was overwhelmed with happiness to welcome our gorgeous bundle of joy into our life.
But, what causes me immense sadness is that I am not listed on her birth certificate as her ‘Other Mother’ and legally I am not recognized as her family in Victoria. I can’t even adopt her as my own –Victoria’s State law makes it illegal.
I am constantly reminded that I am not viewed as her mum: when I take her for anything medical and I need to show Medicare details – I’m not on the same card; Maternal and Child Health appointments do not have me as the other mother; and I can’t include Florence on my Health Insurance.
These are things most parents take for granted – but I cannot.
Teresa, my partner and I met through ‘Pink Sofa’, an online dating site for gay women in 2011. We hit it off straight away due to the silly sense of humour that we both share. We continuously argue about who is the funniest out of the two of us – which of course is me!
We had only been dating a few weeks when I invited Teresa down to the beach to stay at my parent’s caravan.
Straight away I could tell something was worrying Teresa. Eventually, she sat down and quietly said to me, “before we go anywhere, I’ve got something to tell you….”
She hesitated. “I’ve been worried about telling you as I’ve been enjoying our time together….”
She stopped again, took a breath and then restarted: “I’m worried it will ruin the weekend and you’ll want to pack up and leave…”
Naturally, these comments sent my heart racing and my mind into overdrive: Have I just met someone who is dying? Has she got cancer? Has she got AIDS? Is she a mass-murderer?
Then she spoke again…and confessed to wanting a baby and starting IVF.
My first reaction was “Is that all?! I thought you were going to tell me you were dying!”
Teresa said she wasn’t expecting anything from me and was happy just to see how things developed. But, we quickly realised that we wanted to be together and the decision to embark on the IVF was made together.
The day came when Florence was born. It was then we found out that my name could not be put on her birth certificate as her ‘other mother’.
We requested the change from Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) Victoria but they rejected it – because they maintain that I didn’t ‘consent’ to having Florence. For me, who has been through so many rounds of IVF with Teresa and held her hand every step of the way, this decision was confusing and disappointing.
It turns out that ‘consent’ for BDM means undertaking the counselling provided by the IVF Clinic where you undergo for your treatment.
Because Teresa took the initial steps towards beginning IVF just before meeting me, we did not complete the counselling session together.
After three years of IVF, I was well aware each time my partner had her eggs collected and transferred back into the womb that I could potentially become a parent. I gladly accepted the lifetime responsibility of looking after and being financially responsible for both Florence and my partner.
BDM have the ability to amend the Birth Certificate and to add my name. It’s one little thing that families all over the world take for granted – yet we’ve been waiting for a response since early September 2014. We’re hoping that they make a decision in our favour; however, judging from the lack of response so far, we are doubtful.
We have sixteen pieces of evidence from our IVF doctor, pre-natal classes and midwives, all stating that I attended everything but this doesn’t seem to prove my ‘consent’ or willingness to be Florence’s mother.
One of the most heartbreaking consequences for me is that I have no legal rights to Florence. If something were to happen to my partner, and/or Florence, I would have no rights to care for her or make any medical decision on her behalf.
We are now hoping to give Florence a sibling and have completed the requisite IVF counselling together for our second child. This time, I hope to be the birth mother, and both children will have the same donor.
Florence is already growing into a happy-go-lucky and determined little girl. It’s my ultimate goal in life to make her laugh every single second, much to the dismay of my partner, Teresa. It’s way too addictive and I can’t put in words the feelings I have when I see that I’ve put that look of joy on her face.
I am Florence’s mother; she is my daughter. It seems so simple to us, and to everyone else who sees the love and happiness that the three of us share. My only wish is that the law will recognize this too, and give us the same rights as any other family – because that’s what we are.